Titans' Ryan Tannehill keeping starter's mindset as backup QB

Ryan Tannehill, left, and Marcus Mariota have a healthy respect for each other and plan to push each other, even though the Titans say Mariota is the clear starter. Mark Humphrey/AP Photo

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After seven years as the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill finds himself in a new role with the Tennessee Titans, as backup to Marcus Mariota. That hasn't altered Tannehill's confidence or preparation: He says is keeping a starter's mindset, so he's ready to deliver if he gets an opportunity this season.

"My endgame is to be ready if my number is called. I am going to come out every day and compete against the defense. If my name is called, I have to be ready to go help this team win," Tannehill said Thursday in his first news conference as a Titan.

The Titans acquired Tannehill and a sixth-round selection in the 2019 draft in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2020 and a seventh-round selection in 2019. Following the trade, Tannehill signed a one-year deal with Tennessee worth $7 million, with up to $12 million in incentives.

Tannehill, 30, said he was a little shocked when he first heard about the trade.

"It's a transition for me," Tannehill said. "Some things are tough but I am trying to take it day by day. As a competitor, there are things that are tough about it, but it doesn't take the competition side of football out. You put the ball down and you play. I have a lot of competitive juices, and I want to go out and compete on the football field every day."

Given how Mariota has yet to play a full 16-game season since entering the NFL in 2015, it's likely Tannehill will get a chance. Tannehill has seen his share of injuries (missed 24 games over the past three seasons), so he can identify with Mariota. Former Dolphins general manager and ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum likes Tannehill's athleticism and arm strength.

"I have a lot of respect for Marcus Mariota. He's a really good competitor, he's tough, but he's dealt with injuries in the past. It's reasonable to say that at some point Tannehill will play for Tennessee this year," Tannenbaum said. "I know they're hoping that Mariota plays 16 games and leads them to the playoffs. But if Mariota either doesn't play well or if he gets hurt again, to be able to bring in a guy like Tannehill, that was a really good move for [general manager] Jon Robinson to make."

Having two quarterbacks who have achieved a level of success as starters could create a tense situation. New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith believes the key to keeping things in order is making sure the roles are defined. That's why the Titans have gone out of their way to make it clear that Mariota is the starter and Tannehill is the backup. Robinson noted the roles when he talked to Tannehill before the trade.

After practice Thursday, Mariota and Tannehill went over to the sand pit and had a competition. So far, the competition has been intense, but it's been friendly. Their positive attitude keeps things from being awkward.

"Ryan's been great. He's been awesome. Having a guy in that room that has played and been through some of the experiences means a lot. If you have a great relationship in that QB room with all of your guys, that makes the season go a little bit easier," Mariota said of Tannehill.

Added Tannehill: "We are all aligned and trying to push each other to be the best QB that we can be. It's fun," he said. "Marcus likes to compete. I like to compete, so it's great having a guy that I can compete with so we can push each other. There's a lot of mutual respect between us. As long as we have that respect and know that we're aligned to help this team win, that makes all of the interaction fun."